In automotive world news comes in recurring brief explosions with formulation precision: Company X launches robotaxi flot / test program in town Y po [insert date], These announcements are immediately forgotten as long as the first self-drive vehicle does not recognize, an accident occurs or a new partner joins the test program. Rinse. repeat.
A recent announcement between the VW Group, Intel computer vision of Mobileye, and Champion Motors was not treated differently. The Volkswagen group, Intel's mobile and first-class engines, said they would be launching their first self-serving service in 2019 through a joint venture called New Mobility in Israel.
There were also elements of overwhelming announcements, and other parts that did not get the attention they deserved. Here's the effort to clarify what is mistakenly interpreted and extract the details that are important.
Nuts and bolts
The Robotaxi New Mobility Robotics will not function as a commercial job on a ladder in Israel next year. Of course, some coverage was interpreted as such. But it is not. Here's what's going on.
The Israeli government has officially accepted the New Mobility in Israel group initiative at a private ceremony at the Smart Mobility 2018 summit in Tel Aviv last Monday. The group will begin testing next year in Tel Aviv and launch the service in stages until full commercialization in 2022 (Intel and Mobileye began testing self-service cars in Jerusalem in May 2018)
VW and Mobileye are not – and they would not, when they pressed it – to find out where they are planning to test. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted during a statement at the gala evening of the Smart Mobility Summit that a group would test in Tel Aviv,
The project will start with dozens of self-propelled vehicles – each with a wheelchair safety driver. The initial rider program, which would allow members of the public to check availability of services, is likely to be launched in 2021, an unnamed source familiar with the work said TechCrunch.
Each of the three companies in a joint venture provides part of this business puzzle for a self-drive vehicle. Champion Motors will manage the fleet and control center. VW will deliver electric vehicles. And Mobileye manages a stand-alone driving system. All three companies will add a mobile platform and services to implement a commercial service.
The Israeli government also contributes, with plans of providing legal and regulatory support, to the necessary infrastructure and traffic data, and to provide access to infrastructure as needed.
What does this mean for Mobileye
Mobileye will provide its 4th standard AV kit, introduced in September at CITI 2018 Global Technology Conference. This is a set that allows visual perception, sensory fusion, REM mapping system, software algorithms and driving rules to "drive" cars. It is important that the vehicle management system or decision making process of this car will be under the influence of "Security Sensitivity Responsibility" or RSS, a mathematical model that last year introduced the company on white paper.
RSS is an open, non-proprietary proposal for all AV companies and tries to formalize the interpretation of the law applicable to buses. Authors, including Mobileye's executive director Amnon Shashu, claim that the interpretation, if all of them follow in the AV industry, eliminate auto-misfortunes and lead to useful driving policies. In their view, a useful driving policy means "an agile driving rather than an overwhelming defensive run that would inevitably confuse other human drivers and block traffic and limit the scalability of system implementation", says in the paper.
The self-driving service in Tel Aviv will be an important test copy of the Mobileye AV kit product that will include the EyeQ5 chip system. EyeQ5 has 10 times faster teleoperations per second than its EyeQ4 chip that this year launched BMW, Nio and VW.
What does this mean for VW
VW's electrification plans are currently in transition. The company continues to sell e-golf and e-up! It is working on the adoption of a new generation of fully-connected, electric vehicles on the market in 2020. VW calls this ID series, which will have a new modular design for electric cars called MEB design.
Initially, this Tel Aviv program uses one of the VW plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The company would not reveal the model. But a joint venture will probably use a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (or PHEV) that is currently available in Israel. The VW Passat GTE PHEV is one such vehicle.
As the program develops in Israel, VW will have a ready-made testing bed and customer for a new electric vehicle line. However, a joint venture in Israel is just one small piece of VW's total autonomous vehicle and mobility plans. Let's not forget it has a self-help partnership to start Aurora , Volkswagen and Aurora are working to integrate self-propelled powertrain systems for VW's new Moia brand. Volkswagen launches two types of test fleets that use Aurora's technology, including those driving in combination with Moia.
Finally, launching in Tel Aviv will allow Mobileye to prove its RSS, a hypothesis that other autonomous vehicle owners in the industry are privately suspected of.
This self-service taxi service has extensive government support that could accelerate the implementation of the program and push Israel ahead of other countries such as the United States that have a lot of autonomous vehicle testing activities.
This new agreement will undoubtedly boost the AV start-up in Israel. Four or five years ago there were about 60 independent vehicles. Now, there are at least 500, according to Netanyahu.